Jennifer Rubin: Time to call out and remove Putin's propagandists
Jennifer Rubin: President Donald Trump has been disloyal to the United States, not only in giving Russia a leg up in its war against Ukraine, but also in broadcasting his propaganda. And for that, Republicans are just as guilty.
Republicans are not "merely" violating their oaths of office for failing to support impeachment of a president who arguably has committed more serious "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" and acts of bribery than all his predecessors combined.
None of them sacrificed national security to obtain a political advantage. President Donald Trump has been disloyal to the United States, not only in giving Russia a leg up in its war against Ukraine, but also in broadcasting his propaganda. And for that, Republicans are just as guilty.
The New York Times reports that "Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump's fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating 'a fictional narrative.' She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it." While that did not slow Republicans one bit, we now know that they are neither dupes nor Fox News pawns; they are deliberately assisting in a Russian propaganda operation, the Times reports:
"In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill's testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow's own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair."
If congressional Republicans have evidence our intelligence community is wrong, they need to present it. Otherwise, they need to be called out for deliberately assisting a hostile foreign power. It is up to mainstream media interviewers and every Democrat on the ballot in 2020 to directly challenge Republicans who, yes, engage in un-American activity.
In the case of Trump, he not only picks up the propaganda from domestic sources carrying Russian President Vladimir Putin's water, which "worked its way into American information ecosystems, sloshing around until parts of it reached Mr. Trump"; he was duped right from the source, speaking "with Mr. Putin about allegations of Ukrainian interference." Whether the president is being blackmailed is unknown; what we do know is that he is a malleable puppet whose strings are pulled in the Kremlin.
Ironically, it was Republicans during the Cold War who routinely and falsely accused every liberal of aiding communists. Now, we have a case in which the "useful idiots" are in the White House and Congress, spreading Putin's lies far more effectively than the Russian leader could do on his own.
The Washington Post reports that a forthcoming inspector general's report will affirm that the FISA application submitted for surveillance of Carter Page "had a proper legal and factual basis, and, more broadly, that FBI officials did not act improperly in opening the Russia investigation," although a low-level employee "inappropriately altered a document that was used during the process" to renew a FISA warrant. In other words: Russia did it. Period.
Fortunately, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already called for a hearing on the report. Perfect. Let the committee members draw out from Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz, FBI Director Christopher Wray and any number of national security officials in Trump's own administration the obvious conclusions: 1. Russia did it to help Trump; 2. Ukraine had no such plan to "interfere" in our election on behalf of Hillary Clinton or anyone else ("The accusations of a Ukrainian influence campaign center on actions by a handful of Ukrainians who openly criticized or sought to damage Mr. Trump's candidacy in 2016. They were scattershot efforts that were far from a replica of Moscow's interference," the Times reports); 3. Intentionally repeating a falsehood, that Ukraine interfered with our election, is aiding and abetting a hostile power that attacked our election system in 2016.
Republicans must bear full responsibility for raising a specious defense of Trump that aids Russia, and the president should be held responsible for his inability to defend our national security by virtue of his susceptibility to Russian propaganda. The former, presumably, have not lost their powers of reason, and therefore, must be denounced and voted out of office for perpetuating known propaganda from a hostile power. As for Trump, there are plenty of grounds for impeachment, but let's not forget a big one: He is intellectually incapable of recognizing reality. He cannot carry out the responsibilities of commander in chief.